African pygmy kingfisher

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African pygmy kingfisher
Flickr - Rainbirder - African pygmy-kingfisher (Ceyx pictus).jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Coraciiformes
Family: Alcedinidae
Subfamily: Alcedininae
Genus: Ispidina
Species: I. picta
Binomial name
Ispidina picta
Boddaert, 1783

I. p. picta
I. p. ferruginea
I. p. natalensis


Ceyx pictus

The African pygmy kingfisher (Ispidina picta) is a small insectivorous kingfisher found in the Afrotropics, mostly in woodland habitats. Some texts refer to this species as Ceyx pictus.


The African pygmy kingfisher is approximately 12–13 cm in length. This is the smallest kingfisher species in the region. A very small kingfisher with rufous underparts and a blue back extending down to the tail. The dark blue crown of the adult separates it from the African dwarf kingfisher. The smaller size and violet wash on the ear coverts distinguish it from the similar malachite kingfisher.

The natalensis subspecies occurring in the south of the range has paler underparts and a blue spot above the white ear patch. Juveniles have less extensive violet on their ear coverts and a black rather than orange bill. Usually found singly or in pairs. Secretive and unobtrusive. The call is a high-pitched insect-like "tsip-tsip" given in flight. The African pygmy kingfisher is found in woodland, savanna and coastal forest, it is not bound to water. The African pygmy kingfisher's diet consists of insects like grasshoppers, praying mantis, worms, crickets, dragonflies, cockroaches and moths. They are also known to take spiders which make out quite a large part of their diet. They also take geckos and lizards that are easily their length and small frogs and even occasionally small crabs. Pray are hunted from low perches and once caught are either crushed in the beak or are smashed against the perch.

They nest in tunnels that are dug in sandy soil banks.

Status and distribution[edit]

The African pygmy kingfisher is distributed widely in Africa south of the Sahara, where it is a common resident and intra-African migrant. It is absent from much of the horn of Africa, and also the drier western regions of Southern Africa.


  • Sasol Birds of Southern Africa by Ian Sinclair, Phil Hockey and Warwick Tarboton - Published by Struik 1997 - ISBN 1-86872-103-5
  • Birds of Africa south of the Sahara by Ian Sinclair and Peter Ryan - Published by Struik 2003 - ISBN 1-86872-857-9
  • Clancey, P.A. 1997 Pygmy Kingfisher Ispidina picta. In: The atlas of southern African birds. Vol 1: Non-passerines. Harrison, J.A., Allan, D.G., Underhill, L.G., Herremans, M., Tree, A.J., Parker, V. & Brown, C,J.(eds), pp. 648–649. Birdlife South Africa, Johannesburg. ISBN 0-620-20730-2

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